By Samantha Stevenson
Less than three weeks after the battle to reclaim the Iraqi city of Mosul from the Islamic State group began, the United States and Syrian rebel forces have started an offensive in the city of Raqqa in hopes of combating the terrorist group there as well.
The offensive to reclaim Mosul began on October 17, as reported by Reuters. Iraqi forces retook a small portion of territory inside of Mosul, which measures more than 9 miles across.
The first major foray into the city itself after two weeks of fighting in the rural outskirts was made on November 1, after special Iraqi forces entered the Gogjali district on the eastern edge of Mosul, according to CBS.
On November 5, ISIS fought back, pushing the special forces from the southern edge of the neighborhood. Both sides fired mortar rounds and automatic weapons, and Iraqi troops also responded with artillery. Snipers fought from rooftops in residential areas, where most buildings are just two stories high.
The Iraqi forces face challenges in fighting ISIS as they press into more densely populated areas. The forces will not be able to rely as heavily on airstrikes, a popular choice for attack. Part of the reason, according to Iraqi captain Naqib Jaff, is that airstrikes are not effective enough.
Another reason is because of the risk of killing civilians. According to CBS, after Iraqi officers coordinated an airstrike with the U.S.-led coalition to hit ISIS fighters near the front-line, militants corralled civilians into the area to prevent further airstrikes.
Progress was made, however, on November 7. According to Al Jazeera, Iraqi Kurdish forces have infiltrated the town of Bashiqa, which lies just a little over 8 miles from Mosul.
The Bashiqa push seems to be the most impactful yet to push ISIS from the area since the battle for Mosul began. Iraqi forces are optimistic, stating that there are only about 100 to 200 ISIS fighters left and possibly three very high ranking ISIS commanders.
While the battle for Mosul continues, the offensive for Raqqa has just begun. On November 6, Kurdish-led Syrian forces began an offensive to liberate the city from ISIS, according to the New York Times. The United States, France, and Britain have said they would provide air support for the battle.
The timing of the Raqqa campaign has also posed a problem. The civil war that has lasted for over five years in Syria has made the political and military landscape more complicated, according to the New York Times. The Mosul operation also created a demand for soldiers, meaning more Syrian opposition fighters need to be recruited, trained, and equipped.
According to the New York Times, Kurdish officials said the anti-ISIS campaigns are not coordinated, but are rather a product of “good timing.” Officials hope the simultaneous attacks will be a major hit to ISIS forces.
Picture provided by CNN. ISIS forces hit the positions of Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighters during an operation to recapture Nawaran village on October 19.
By Samantha Stevenson